Britain’s Olympic Greats – Dorothy Manley

Labour Party

Dorothy Manley is the one of only two British women to have won a medal in the 100 metres at the Olympics.

Dorothy was born in Manor Park, London in 1927.  She was initially introduced into athletics by one of her school teachers and worked her way up from the school, to the district and then to running for her county before the Second World War. She was evacuated to the countryside, but returned to London in 1942.

After that Dorothy ran for the Essex Ladies athletics club. She was added to a national list of potential Olympians in late 1947, and assigned to train with Sandy Duncan.  She began her training for the 1948 Summer Olympics early in March of 1948, training on the track four times a week, but never using the gym. Dorothy described the trials as a “fiasco”, having finished fifth at the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association Championships, but was still picked to represent the United Kingdom. She was working full time during 1948 for the Suez Canal Company as a typist, and used her summer holidays to attend the games although the leave was unpaid by her employer.

Dorothy had a very different experience in 1948 to the one our Olympic athletes will enjoy this year.  Her mother made her running vest and shorts for the Games, but she was given the blazer and skirt for the opening ceremony. While at the Games, she travelled to and from Wembley on the London Underground, as she was sharing a room with two other athletes near Eccleston Square in central London.

She qualified for the women’s 100 metres final, and finished in second place, winning the silver medal in her first international athletics event.  Dorothy described her start in the race as the “best of her life”,having described her normal starts as notoriously bad. She thought that this may have actually distracted her as her start was so good that she was expecting the race to be recalled.

Dorothy has not had the recognition that she deserves for her achievements, but despie that she is a true inspiration to our current generation of Olympic hopefuls.